|Publication number||US6863869 B2|
|Application number||US 10/156,158|
|Publication date||Mar 8, 2005|
|Filing date||May 28, 2002|
|Priority date||Nov 5, 1998|
|Also published as||US6451266, US20020141914|
|Publication number||10156158, 156158, US 6863869 B2, US 6863869B2, US-B2-6863869, US6863869 B2, US6863869B2|
|Inventors||Shek Fai Lau, Andrew Parker|
|Original Assignee||Sharper Image Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (48), Non-Patent Citations (8), Referenced by (53), Classifications (42), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/669,268 which was filed on Sep. 25, 2000 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,451,266, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/186,471 which was filed on Nov. 5, 1998, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,176,977 which was issued on Jan. 23, 2001 and assigned to the assignee herein.
This invention relates to electro-kinetic conversion of electrical energy into fluid flow of an ionizable dielectric medium in which an electro-kinetically produced flow of air is created, the air containing safe amounts of ozone and more particularly to such units adapted for use as a foot deodorizer as part of a foot massager system that may be battery operated, including use in a motor vehicle.
The use of an electric motor to rotate a fan blade to create an air flow has long been known in the art. Unfortunately, such fans produce substantial noise, and can present a hazard to children who may be tempted to poke a finger or a pencil into the moving fan blade. Although such fans can produce substantial air flow, e.g., 1,000 ft3/minute or more, substantial electrical power is required to operate the motor, and essentially no conditioning of the flowing air occurs.
It is known to provide such fans with a HEPA-compliant filter element to remove particulate matter larger than perhaps 0.3 μm. Unfortunately, the resistance to air flow presented by the filter element may require doubling the electric motor size to maintain a desired level of airflow. Further, HEPA-compliant filter elements are expensive, and can represent a substantial portion of the sale price of a HEPA-compliant filter-fan unit. While such filter-fan units can condition the air by removing large particles, particulate matter small enough to pass through the filter element is not removed, including bacteria, for example.
It is also known in the art to produce an air flow using electro-kinetic techniques, by which electrical power is directly converted into a flow of air without mechanically moving components. One such system is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,789,801 to Lee (1988), depicted herein in simplified form as
The high voltage pulses ionize the air between the arrays, and an air flow 50 from the minisectional array toward the maxisectional array results, without requiring any moving parts. Particulate matter 60 in the air is entrained within the airflow 50 and also moves towards the maxisectional electrodes 30. Much of the particulate matter is electrostatically attracted to the surface of the maxisectional electrode array, where it remains, thus conditioning the flow of air exiting system 10. Further, the high voltage field present between the electrode arrays can release ozone into the ambient environment, which appears to destroy or at least alter whatever is entrained in the airflow, including for example, bacteria.
In the embodiment of
In another embodiment shown herein as
While the electrostatic techniques disclosed by Lee are advantageous to conventional electric fan-filter units, Lee's maxisectional electrodes are relatively expensive to fabricate. Increased filter efficiency beyond what Lee's embodiments can produce would be advantageous, especially without including a third array of electrodes. Further, Lee's system does not provide for changing the moisture content of the output flow of air, and does not lend itself to being fabricated in a small form factor, for example hand holdable.
While a Lee-type system may be useful in a room, it does not lend itself to portability, for example for use in a confined relatively small area such as the seating compartment of a motor vehicle or an airplane.
Thus, there is a need for a portable electro-kinetic air transporter-conditioner that provides improved efficiency over Lee-type systems, without requiring expensive production techniques to fabricate the electrodes. Preferably such a conditioner should function efficiently without requiring a third array of electrodes. Such a conditioner should permit user-selection of safe amounts of ozone to be generated, for example to remove odor from the ambient environment, and should be implementable in a hand held form factor so as to be portable. Further, such a conditioner should permit increasing the moisture content of the output airflow.
The present invention provides a method and portable apparatus for electro-kinetically transporting and conditioning air.
The present invention provides a foot massager system that includes a preferably portable electro-kinetic sub-system for transporting and conditioning air without moving parts. The air is conditioned in the sense that it is ionized and contains safe amounts of ozone, which can deodorize a user's bare feet or sock-encased feet.
Applicants' electro-kinetic air transporter-conditioner includes a housing with at least one vent through which ambient air may enter, a preferably two-motor foot vibrator, an ionizer unit, disposed within the housing.
The foot vibrator includes a left motor and a right motor, each having a rotary shaft to which an eccentric weight is attached. Motor rotations product a vibration that is mechanically translated to regions of the housing upon which the user's left and right feet are placed.
The ionizer unit includes a high voltage DC inverter that boosts low voltage (e.g., preferably about 12 VDC) to high voltage DC, and a generator that receives the high voltage DC and outputs high voltage pulses. The high voltage pulses are perhaps 10 KV peak-to-peak, although an essentially 100% duty cycle (e.g., high voltage DC) output could be used instead of pulses. The unit also includes at least one and preferably two electrode assembly units, each unit comprising spaced-apart first and second arrays of conducting electrodes coupled between the positive and negative output ports of the high voltage generator.
Preferably two electrode assemblies are used, in which each assembly is formed using first and second arrays of readily manufacturable electrode types. In one embodiment, the first array comprises wire-like electrodes and the second array comprises “U”-shaped electrodes having one or two trailing surfaces. In a preferred, even more efficient embodiment, each first array includes at least one pin or cone-like electrode and the second array is an annular washer-like electrode. The electrode assemblies may comprise various combinations of the described first and second array electrodes. In the various embodiments, the ratio between effective radius of the second array electrodes to the first array electrodes is at least about 20:1.
The high voltage pulses create an electric field between the first and second electrode arrays in each electrode assembly. This field produces an electro-kinetic airflow going from the first array toward the second array, the airflow being rich in preferably a net surplus of negative ions and in ozone. Ambient air including dust particles and other undesired components (germs, perhaps) enter the housing through the input vent, and ionized clean air (with ozone) exits through openings on the downstream side of the housing. When the moisture-containing member is wet, the exiting air flow can have increased humidity.
Dust and other particulate matter in the air flow can attach is electrostatically to the second array (or collector) electrodes, thus causing output air to be substantially clean of such particulate matter. Further, ozone generated by the present invention can kill certain types of germs and the like, and also eliminates odors in the output air. Thus, the user's bare or sock-clad feet placed on the housing can in essence be deodorized by the air outflow. Preferably the transporter operates in periodic bursts, and a control permits the user to temporarily increase the high voltage pulse generator output, e.g., to more rapidly eliminate odors in the environment.
Other features and advantages of the invention will appear from the following description in which the preferred embodiments have been set forth in detail, in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
Mechanically coupled to the shaft of M1 is an eccentric weight W1, and mechanically coupled to the shaft of M2 is an eccentric weight W2. When the motors rotate, the off-balance weights produce a discernable vibration that is mechanically coupled to the regions of the housing touched by the balls of the user's feet. Small 23 cm diameter generic DC powered motors can be used for M1 and M2. A power supply jack J1 is provided such that device 100 may be electrically powered from an external DC power source, e.g., the 12 V accessory system voltage available within a motor vehicle.
System 100 is formed within a housing 110 that preferably is a lightweight easily formed material, ABS plastic for example. Vents 130 permit ambient air to enter the housing, and ozone (O3) enriched air to electro-kinetically exit the housing. Ion generating unit 160 within device 100 is self-contained in that other than ambient air, nothing is required from beyond device 100 for ion generation by the present invention.
Turning now to
As shown in
Output pulses from high voltage generator 170 preferably are at least 10 KV peak-to-peak with an effective DC offset of perhaps half the peak-to-peak voltage, and have a frequency of perhaps 20 KHz. The pulse train output preferably has a duty cycle of perhaps 10%, which will promote battery lifetime. Of course, different peak-peak amplitudes, DC offsets, pulse train waveshapes, duty cycle, and/or repetition frequencies may instead be used. Indeed, a 100% pulse train (e.g., an essentially DC high voltage) may be used, albeit with shorter battery lifetime. Thus, generator unit 170 may (but need not) be referred to as a DC:DC high voltage pulse generator. Frequency of oscillation is not especially critical but frequency of at least about 20 KHz is preferred as being inaudible to humans.
As shown in
In the embodiment of
When voltage or pulses from high voltage pulse generator 170 are coupled across first and second electrode arrays 230 and 240, it is believed that a plasma-like field is created surrounding electrodes 232 in first array 230. This electric field ionizes the ambient air between the first and second electrode arrays and establishes an “OUT” airflow that moves towards the second array.
It is believed that ozone and ions are generated simultaneously by the first array electrode(s) 232, essentially as a function of the potential from generator 170 coupled to the first array. Ozone generation may be increased or decreased by increasing or decreasing the potential at the first array. Coupling an opposite polarity potential to the second array electrode(s) 242 essentially accelerates the motion of ions generated at the first array, producing the air flow denoted as “OUT” in the figures. As the ions move toward the second array, it is believed that they push or move air molecules toward the second array. The relative velocity of this motion may be increased by decreasing the potential at the second array relative to the potential at the first array.
For example, if +10 KV were applied to the first array electrode(s), and no potential were applied to the second array electrode(s), a cloud of ions (whose net charge is positive) would form adjacent the first electrode array. Further, the relatively high 10 KV potential would generate substantial ozone. By coupling a relatively negative potential to the second array electrode(s), the velocity of the air mass moved by the net emitted ions increases, as momentum of the moving ions is conserved.
On the other hand, if it were desired to maintain the same effective outflow (OUT) velocity but to generate less ozone, the exemplary 10 KV potential could be divided between the electrode arrays. For example, generator 170 could provide +4 KV (or some other fraction) to the first array electrode(s) and −6 KV (or some other fraction) to the second array electrode(s). In this example, it is understood that the +4 KV and the −6 KV are measured relative to ground. Understandably it is desired that the present invention operate to output safe amounts of ozone. Accordingly, the high voltage is preferably fractionalized with about +4 KV applied to the first array electrode(s) and about −6 KV applied to the second array electrodes.
As noted, outflow (OUT) preferably includes safe amounts of O3 that can destroy or at least substantially alter bacteria, germs, and other living (or quasi-living) matter subjected to the outflow. Thus, when switch S1 is closed and B1 has sufficient operating potential, pulses from high voltage pulse generator unit 170 create an outflow (OUT) of ionized air and O3. When S1 is closed, LED will visually signal when ionization is occurring.
Preferably operating parameters of the present invention are set during manufacture and are not user-adjustable. For example, increasing the peak-to-peak output voltage and/or duty cycle in the high voltage pulses generated by unit 170 can increase air flowrate, ion content, and ozone content. In the preferred embodiment, output flowrate is about 200 feet/minute, ion content is about 2,000,000/cc and ozone content is about 40 ppb (over ambient) to perhaps 2,000 ppb (over ambient). As described herein, decreasing the second electrode/first electrode radius of curvature R2/R1 ratio below about 20:1 will decrease flow rate, as will decreasing the peak-to-peak voltage and/or duty cycle of the high voltage pulses coupled between the first and second electrode arrays.
Output ozone can beneficially destroy or at least diminish the undesired effects of certain odors, bacteria, germs, and the like, especially as may be associated with the user's feet or stockings. Further, the air flow is indeed electro-kinetically produced, in that there are no intentionally moving parts within the present invention. (As noted, some mechanical vibration may occur within some electrode configurations.) Preferably the present invention is used to output a net surplus of negative ions, as these ions are deemed more beneficial to health than are positive ions.
Having described various aspects of the invention in general, various embodiments of electrode assembly 220 will now be described. In the various embodiments, electrode assembly 220 will comprise a first array 230 of at least one electrode 232, and will further comprise a second array 240 of preferably at least one electrode 242. Understandably material(s) for electrodes 232 and 242 should conduct electricity, be resilient to corrosive effects from the application of high voltage, yet be strong enough to be cleaned.
In contrast to the prior art electrodes disclosed by Lee, electrodes 232 and 242 according to the present invention are light weight, easy to fabricate, and lend themselves to mass production. Further, electrodes 232 and 242 described herein promote more efficient generation of ionized air, and production of safe amounts of ozone, O3.
As shown in
According to the present invention, it is preferred that the positive output terminal or port of the high voltage pulse generator be coupled to electrodes 232, and that the negative output terminal or port be coupled to electrodes 242. It is believed that the net polarity of the emitted ions is positive, e.g., more positive ions than negative ions are emitted. In any event, the preferred electrode assembly electrical coupling minimizes audible hum from electrodes 232 contrasted with reverse polarity (e.g., interchanging the positive and negative output port connections).
However, while generation of positive ions is conducive to a relatively silent air flow, from a health standpoint, it is desired that the output air flow be richer in negative ions, not positive ions. It is noted that in some embodiments, however, one port (preferably the negative port) of the high voltage pulse generator may in fact be the ambient air. Thus, electrodes in the second array need not be connected to the high voltage pulse generator using wire. Nonetheless, there will be an “effective connection” between the second array electrodes and one output port of the high voltage pulse generator, in this instance, via ambient air.
In the embodiments of
Electrodes 242 are formed from sheet metal, preferably stainless steel, although brass or other sheet metal could be used. The sheet metal is readily formed to define side regions 244 and bulbous nose region 246 for hollow elongated “U” shaped electrodes 242. While
As best seen in
Assume that system 100 has overall dimensions of perhaps 5″ height, rear edge to front edge, (12 cm), 12″ width (25 cm) and perhaps 2″ thickness, top to bottom, (5 cm). In
Electrodes 232 in first array 230 are coupled by a conductor 234 to a first (preferably positive) output port of high voltage pulse generator 170, and electrodes 242 in second array 240 are coupled by a conductor 244 to a second (preferably negative) output port of generator 170. It is relatively unimportant where on the various electrodes electrical connection is made to conductors 234 or 244. Thus, by way of example
It is preferred that at least electrode assembly 240 is readily removable from housing 102 for cleaning, e.g., removing accumulated particulate matter 60 from the electrode surfaces. Thus, housing 102 may be provided with a user-removable second array 240, or the housing may include a break-away feature providing the user with access to the second array for such periodic cleaning as may be required.
Referring to the geometry of the electrodes shown in
In this and the other embodiments to be described herein, ionization appears to occur at the smaller electrode(s) 232 in the first electrode array 230, with ozone production occurring as a function of high voltage arcing. For example, increasing the peak-to-peak voltage amplitude and/or duty cycle of the pulses from the high voltage pulse generator 170 can increase ozone content in the output flow of ionized air. If desired, user-control S2 can be used to somewhat vary ozone content by varying (in a safe manner) amplitude and/or duty cycle. Specific circuitry for achieving such control is known in the art and need not be described in detail herein.
Note the inclusion in
Another advantage of including pointed electrodes 243 is that they may be stationarily mounted within the housing of unit 100, and thus are not readily reached by human hands when cleaning the unit. Were it otherwise, the sharp point on electrode(s) 243 could easily cause cuts. The inclusion of one electrode 243 has been found sufficient to provide a sufficient number of output negative ions, but more such electrodes may be included.
The electrode configurations of
Note that the embodiments of
In the embodiment of
The most preferred embodiments for electrode arrays will now be described with respect to
Note that particulate matter 60 will be electro-kinetically transported towards and will tend to electrostatically adhere to the surface of electrodes 242 facing upstream, e.g., towards pointed electrodes 232. Preferably electrodes 232 are tungsten, and electrodes 242 are stainless steel. In the various electrode embodiments described herein, the upstream electrodes 232 preferably will be tungsten as this material can sustain high temperature associated with ionization. By contrast, the downstream electrodes 242 typically are machined or fabricated and will be made from a material more workable than tungsten, yet durable, stainless steel being a preferred such material.
Typical dimensions for the embodiment of
One advantage of the ring-pin electrode assembly configuration shown in
In the various embodiments shown in
Given the configuration of housing 110 and the desirability of outputting airflow throughout the perhaps 25 cm length of system 100, a most preferred electrode array embodiment is that shown in FIG. 4N. The pin or pointed first array electrodes 232 are spaced-apart from central openings formed by extruding or by punching openings in a metal plate to form ring-like periphery second array electrodes 242. The spaced-apart distance between adjacent ring-like electrodes 242 is preferably identical to the spaced-apart distance between adjacent pointed electrodes 232. Forming array 240R or 240L in this fashion enables the second electrodes to be rapidly fabricated, e.g., from a single sheet of metal, and to be rapidly cleaned by removing the sheet, wiping with a cloth or the like, and returning the sheet. As noted, particulate matter will tend to accumulate on the smoother inner surface (or collar surface) surrounding the central through openings in the plate from which electrodes 242 are formed.
As described, the net output of ions is influenced by placing a bias element (e.g., element 243) near the output stream and preferably near the downstream side of the second array electrodes. If no ion output were desired, such an element could achieve substantial neutralization. It will also be appreciated that the present invention could be adjusted to produce ions without producing ozone, if desired.
In summary, when operated from internal batteries, the present invention can provide several hours of clean air with safe amounts of ozone and, if desired, an increase in humidity of perhaps 10% to 20%. Further, the user's feet may be pleasantly massaged. If desired, the ozone generation and foot massage activation can be decoupled such that user-controls permit selecting either or both functions. As noted, the device may be used within a motor vehicle, perhaps to comfort a passenger's feet while the vehicle is being driven by an operator.
Modifications and variations may be made to the disclosed embodiments without departing from the subject and spirit of the invention as defined by the following claims.
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|U.S. Classification||422/186.04, 96/95|
|International Classification||A61L9/015, A61L9/22, B03C3/74, B01J19/08, B03C3/40, B03C3/45, B03C3/02, B03C3/47, B03C3/41, C01B13/11, B03C3/12, H01T23/00, B01D53/32|
|Cooperative Classification||B01D53/323, B01D2251/104, C01B13/11, B03C3/68, B03C2201/14, C01B13/115, C01B2201/62, C01B2201/12, B03C3/12, F24F2003/1682, F24F2003/1685, B03C3/32, C01B2201/22, B03C3/08, H01T23/00, B03C2201/08, B03C3/743, C01B2201/20|
|European Classification||B03C3/08, B03C3/32, B03C3/68, B01D53/32B, B03C3/74D, B03C3/12, H01T23/00, C01B13/11B, C01B13/11|
|Aug 27, 2008||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|May 5, 2009||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: TESSERA, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SHARPER IMAGE ACQUISITION LLC;REEL/FRAME:022634/0776
Effective date: 20090205
Owner name: TESSERA, INC.,CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SHARPER IMAGE ACQUISITION LLC;REEL/FRAME:022634/0776
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|May 22, 2009||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: SHARPER IMAGE CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:LAU, SHEK FAI;PARKER, ANDREW;REEL/FRAME:022727/0369;SIGNING DATES FROM 20001213 TO 20001219
Owner name: SHARPER IMAGE ACQUISITION LLC, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SHARPER IMAGE CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:022727/0381
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Owner name: SHARPER IMAGE CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
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|May 22, 2012||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8